Gender equality and violence against women

What’s the connection?
ACSSA Research Summary No. 7 – June 2014


Within the research and literature around violence against women it seems that all roads eventually lead to the need to readjust structural power imbalances to alleviate the greater privileges men have. However, the lack of clear and definite conclusions about which aspects of this power and how it drives perpetrators of violence indicates that more research is needed into the broad, societal level factors that underlie violence against women. Observations around the persistence of gender hierarchies that accord men greater status despite extensive social changes must be understood.

Consideration of the relative social status of the genders has implications for prevention of violence against women strategies and policies at all levels of the ecological model including educational programming and service delivery.

  • The goals of prevention, reduction and elimination of intimate partner and sexual violence are currently being approached with a focus on achieving gender equality but more research is needed to understand exactly what this means and how it can best be implemented at the societal level. Incorporating sociological perspectives that enhance our understanding of which aspects of inequality have the most impact on violence against women will be beneficial for informing the policy around this important area of work.
  • Measures and economic indicators around gender equality should include consideration of societal attitudes and structural hierarchies and how these affect access to resources and power.
  • In education and programming to reduce violence against women, an understanding of gender and its relationship to status must inform education and programming to ensure esteem and respect for differences between socially constructed groupings. Constructs of masculinity and femininity, so defined by cultures and social norms, need work to accommodate a masculinity that does not include violence and that incorporates attitudes of mutual respect between the genders. The evidence base around how to do this is currently expanding.
  • Organisational change could incorporate policies and work practices that acknowledge the impacts of gender difference and attitudes towards that difference in order to challenge traditional norms around gendered social roles.
  • At the service provision level, recognising and acknowledging the impacts that entrenched inequality based on gender and other intersecting disadvantage have is important in order to move forward.